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Teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia have walked out of classrooms in search of better pay and working conditions for them and their students, but in most cases they're not legally allowed to do so because of state laws preventing public employee strikes.

Expand chart
Note: Data as of 2014; Data: Center for Economic and Policy Research; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The big picture: Teachers could face punishment from the state and potentially lose their jobs over strikes, but it's unlikely they will.

Employees are not required to join unions in right-to-work states, which means they don't have to pay union fees. It also means that there is no officially recognized collective bargaining unit for those employees.

Most states have laws that either limit public employee's ability to strike or abolish their right to strike completely.

You really just can’t have a strong union movement in a right to work state.
— Angela Cornell, Labor Law director at Cornell University

Yes, but: If teachers face consequences, they can't be too harsh as there are too many teachers to be fired and relations may remain sour if teachers are let go, Cornell told Axios.

  • More than 50,000 teachers were striking in Arizona last week. Another 10,000 were striking in Colorado.
  • 36,000 were striking in Oklahoma in April, according to reports.
  • Teachers across 26 counties in Kentucky took part in the sick-out in March.

The backdrop: Legislators have tried to block teachers from striking before through bills, but two have already failed this year — one in Oregon and another last week in Colorado.

Teachers aren't afraid of any bills coming down from state capitals. With mid-term elections coming up in November, they believe they hold the power.

Go deeper

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."

6 hours ago - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.